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Home > Sands of Time(26)

Sands of Time(26)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

She had reached the immigration officer.

"Passport, signorina."

Lucia handed him her black passport through the car window. As the officer took it, he glanced at Lucia, and she saw a puzzled look come into his eyes. He looked from the passport to her face and back again, this time more carefully. Lucia felt her body tense.

"You're Lucia Carmine," he said.

CHAPTER NINE

"No!" Lucia cried. The blood drained from her face. She looked around for a way to escape. There was none. And suddenly, to her disbelief, the guard was smiling. He leaned toward her and whispered, "Your father was good to my family, signorina. You may pass through. Good luck."

Lucia felt dizzy with relief. "Grazie."

She stepped on the accelerator and drove the twenty-five yards toward the French border. The French immigration officer prided himself on being a connoisseur of beautiful women, and the woman who pulled up before him was certainly no beauty. She had mousy hair, thick glasses, stained teeth, and was dowdily dressed.

Why can't Italian women look as beautiful as French women? he thought disgustedly. He stamped Lucia's passport and waved her through.

She arrived in Beziers six hours later.

The phone was answered on the first ring, and a smooth male voice said, "Hello."

"Dominic Durell, please."

"This is Dominic Durell. Who is this speaking?"

"Lucia Carmine. My father told me - "

"Lucia!" His voice was warm with welcome. "I was hoping to hear from you."

"I need help."

"You can count on me."

Lucia's heart lightened. It was the first good news she had heard in a long time, and she suddenly realized how drained she felt.

"I need a place where I can hide out from the police."

"No problem. My wife and I have a perfect place for you to use for as long as you like."

It was almost too good to be true.

"Thank you."

"Where are you, Lucia?"

"I'm - "

At that moment the blare of a police shortwave radio crackled over the phone, and then was instantly shut off.

"Lucia - "

A loud alarm rang in her head.

"Lucia - where are you? I'll come and get you."

Why would he have a police radio in his house? And he had answered the telephone on the first ring. Almost as though he had been expecting her call.

"Lucia - can you hear me?"

She knew, with an absolute certainty, that the man on the other end of the line was a policeman. So the dragnet was out for her. This call was being traced.

"Lucia - "

She replaced the receiver and walked quickly away from the telephone booth. I've got to get out of France, she thought.

She returned to her car and took a map from the glove compartment. The Spanish border was only a few hours away. She replaced the map and started off, heading southwest toward San Sebastian.

It was at the Spanish border that things started to go wrong.

"Passport, please."

Lucia handed the Spanish immigration officer her passport. He gave it a cursory glance and started to hand it back, but something made him hesitate. He took a closer look at Lucia, and his expression changed.

"Just a moment, please. I will have to have this stamped inside."

He recognized me, Lucia thought desperately. She watched him walk into the little office kiosk and show the passport to another officer. The two of them were talking excitedly. She had to escape. She opened the door on the driver's side and stepped out. A group of German tourists who had just cleared customs was noisily boarding an excursion bus next to Lucia's car. The sign on the front of the bus read MADRID.

"Achtung!" their guide was calling out. "Schnell."

Lucia glanced toward the hut. The guard who had taken her passport was yelling into the telephone.

"All aboard, bitte."

Without a second thought, Lucia moved toward the laughing, chattering tour group and stepped onto the bus, averting her face from the guide. She took a seat in the rear of the bus, keeping her head down. Move! she prayed. Now.

Through the window Lucia saw that another guard had joined the first two and the three of them were examining her passport. As though in answer to Lucia's prayer, the bus door closed and the engine sprang to life. A moment later the bus was rolling out of San Sebastian toward Madrid. What would happen when the border guards found that she had left her car? Their first thought would be that she had gone to the ladies' room. They would wait and finally send someone in to get her. Their next step would be to search the area to see if she was hiding somewhere. By then dozens of cars and buses would have passed through. The police would have no idea where she had gone, or in which direction she was traveling.

The tour group on the bus was obviously having a happy holiday. Why not? Lucia thought bitterly. They don't have the police snapping at their heels. Was it worth risking the rest of my life for? She thought about it, reliving the scenes with Judge Buscetta and Benito in her mind.

I have a feeling you and I could become very good friends, Lucia...To the death of villains.

And Benito Patas: It's like old times. You couldn't forget me, could you?

And she had made the two traitors pay for their sins against her family. Was it worth it? They were dead, but her father and brothers would suffer for the rest of their lives. Oh, yes, Lucia thought. It was worth it

Someone on the bus started a German song, and the others joined in:

"In Munchen ist ein Hofbrau Haus, ein, zwei, sufa..."

I'll be safe with this group for a while, Lucia thought. I'll decide what to do next when I get to Madrid.

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